Despite a bumpy road, Windsor might be the latest out of the CFS
Robert Woodrich and Jake DeJong aren’t getting much sleep lately.
Since Sept. 20 they have been gathering signatures from students at the University of Windsor to launch a referendum to leave the Canadian Federation of Students. They feel the national student lobby group is wasting their money and meddling in their university’s internal affairs.
They aren’t alone. Over the past year, six other universities have tried to leave the CFS. Unlike most of the others, Windsor has turned into a battleground.
“I just don’t have the time to do [an interview] right now. We would love to, but because our campus is currently overrun with CFS executives and staff members, I’m very busy dealing with that situation,” wrote Woodrich, the VP University Affairs of the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance, in an email from his mobile phone.
After three requests for an interview in as many hours, Woodrich simply didn’t have the time to stop.
He expects to have 2,500 signatures into the university registrar’s office by Thursday.
DeJong, the founder of the Windsor Drop CFS Movement and a member of UWSA’s Board of Directors, also didn’t have time to stop. His interview was conducted by text message as he gathered signatures.
Part of DeJong and Woodrich’s problem is that they need to get 20 per cent of students to sign their petition. Before May, they would have only needed to gather 10 per cent. After a year with more than a dozen petitions across Canada, the CFS tightened the rules to leave at its annual general meeting.
“I think that the rules are absurd,” Woodrich told The Link in late August. “At a school like Windsor it is very difficult, almost prohibitively so, to collect signatures from 20 per cent of students.”
Despite the new rules, the two are doing their best. The CFS isn’t making it easy on them.
“The CFS has been on our campus since Sept. 6 and has yet to leave, offering the justification of ‘we’re here to help you promote our campaigns to your students,’” Woodrich wrote on Sept. 17, before he began gathering signatures.
DeJong confirmed on Monday that six members of the CFS and CFS’ Ontario branch were on campus.
“They won’t campaign when anyone wearing a drop CFS shirt is around. They have started a counter petition, though I cannot prove it is the CFS staff since when I asked to see the petition I was told no, in a more inappropriate way,” wrote DeJong.
Even if DeJong and Woodrich get their petition to the university on Thursday, the fight will only be starting.
Concordia students voted to leave the CFS last March, but the national lobby group refused to recognize the results. Undergraduate students and graduates at Concordia are slowly preparing to meet the CFS in court. Concordia Student Union VP External and Projects Adrien Severyns is keeping an eye on the situation in Windsor.
“Other universities are looking closely at what happened at Concordia since last March and the legal proceedings that have taken place since Council voted in favour of starting legal actions against the CFS,” said Severyns. “Windsor is a very recent development, things are moving fast. But up to now, it is going well.”
When Windsor drops off its petition on Thursday, the CFS will have a 14th student group that is trying to leave the organization.
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